December 6, 2010
BOSTON, MASS: As cheerful images of reindeer make their annual appearance on TV and in shopping mall displays, an investigation by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) exposes a grim counterpoint: the suffering inflicted on reindeer as they are rounded up in large numbers, transported and slaughtered in Sweden and Finland. Footage from the investigation, released today, shows the extreme distress experienced by reindeer at every stage of the commercial husbandry process.
Traditionally, reindeer husbandry – or the act of raising reindeer for their meat, hides and antlers – is done on a small scale in these regions for purposes of sustainability, with minimum distress to the animals involved. However, over the past decades, the process has become largely commercial. Hunters now use extensive methods such as snow mobiles, motorcycles and helicopters to herd massive numbers of frightened reindeer onto crowded loading trucks. During the commute, and then at the slaughterhouse, many reindeer face further suffering such as starvation, illness or mishandling.
“This footage may appear particularly disturbing – especially at this time of year –but it is a stark portrayal of what the reindeer suffer,” says Roger Petterson, Country Director for WSPA Sweden. “Reindeer husbandry is an exclusive right for the Sami population in Sweden, but the entry of commercial players has dramatically altered the way these gentle animals are treated today, and not for the better.”
The footage obtained by WSPA shows the reindeer visibly panicked as they attempt to flee the herders. Their distress continues as they are forced, by the hundreds, into corrals and – in more than one instance in the film – are mishandled as they resist being loaded onto trucks for transport to slaughterhouses.
“Once on these densely-packed loading trucks, reindeers’ iconic antlers become potentially lethal as they get entangled, trapping their heads against the side of the truck or accidentally goring each other,” says Petterson.
“Then, at the slaughterhouse, the suffering continues. We’ve captured visuals of two slaughter methods – one using a knife and one using a bolt gun – where animals are kicking and struggling frantically to get away,” he adds. “Irrespective of which method they use, it is clear that operators are in violation of existing legislation in Sweden and Finland, which explicitly states that no undue distress, pain or suffering be caused to animals at slaughterhouses. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
Sweden’s Animal Welfare Act 1988 and Finland’s Animal Welfare Act 1996 both decree a high level of welfare for all animals domestic, laboratory and in captivity. Today, WSPA and its supporters are calling on members of the Nordic Council of Ministers – an inter-parliamentary forum for cooperation in the Nordic countries – to uphold the Växjö Declaration of 2008, which states the Council’s belief that animals are sentient beings with their own intrinsic value and that they should be respected as such (Footnote 1 and 2), as well as Sweden and Finland’s respective Animal Welfare Acts.
About The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
Through its alliance of more than 1,000 animal welfare groups – with at least one member in virtually every country of the world – WSPA works where there is the greatest need to stop animal suffering and cruelty. For more information, visit our website, follow us on Twitter and “Like” our Facebook page.
To schedule an interview, request footage or for further information, please contact:
WSPA U.S. Communications Manager
(1) The Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers are inter-parliamentary and inter-governmental entities that include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, as well as the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland.
(2) An overview of salient points from the Växjö Declaration: Animal protection and food, and relevant sections from the Animal Welfare Act 1988, Sweden and the Animal Welfare Decree 1996, Finland, are available for download in PDF format >>